Governor Lamont Congratulates Four Connecticut Public Schools on Being Named 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools
Schools in Coventry, Cheshire, Danbury, and Vernon Earn National Distinction
MIDDLETOWN, CT (STL.News) Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona are congratulating four public schools in Connecticut on being named 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. The award is given to select schools across the nation annually for demonstrating overall high achievement or success in closing achievement gaps. The four schools are:
- George Hersey Robertson in Coventry;
- Norton School in Cheshire;
- South Street School in Danbury; and
- Northeast School in Vernon.
“Connecticut’s public school teachers are the best in the United States, and the tools they are providing our youngest residents are enabling them to achieve success throughout their careers,” Governor Lamont said. “Every child – no matter their family’s income or the neighborhood where they live – deserves access to a quality education that prepares them for achievement. We no doubt continue to have work to do to close persistent achievement gaps that have lingered far too long, but I firmly believe that the strong work of so many of our educators is having an impact. I congratulate these schools on earning this national distinction and wish them continued success.”
“Receiving this prestigious honor speaks to the true team effort it takes to make tangible progress on closing gaps in opportunities, access, and outcomes that exist for too many of our students,” Commissioner Cardona said. “Taking these successes to scale statewide will require us to come together in the same spirit of collaboration with all of us doing our part, especially in light of this pandemic. I congratulate every member of these Blue Ribbon school communities because each one deserves to be recognized for this achievement.”
The Connecticut State Department of Education uses data from the Next Generation Accountability System to nominate schools for the National Blue Ribbon School award. Nominated schools must complete an application process and be approved by the U.S. Department of Education. All selected schools in Connecticut were Schools of Distinction for at least two of the last four years. National Blue Ribbon Schools are identified in two categories: Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing and Exemplary High Performing.
George Hersey Robertson School (Coventry): Exemplary High Performing
George Hersey Robertson School serves 367 students in Grades 3, 4 and 5. The overall performance for this school has climbed steadily to an accountability index in 2018-19 of 87.0 meaning that the school earned 87 percent of all possible points in the accountability system. There are a variety of strategies educators at this school use to ensure student success, but one notable practice is the way they tailor instruction to individual students’ needs. Personalization is evident in their approach to intervention. Everyone including students and their families view intervention as a “tune up,” a chance to build facility in a few skills rather than a holistic judgment. The intervention referral team meets bi-weekly to discuss student progress, allowing students to move in and out of interventions as needed rather than getting stuck in (or out of) an intervention group for six to eight weeks when the next “cycle” restarts. This model motivates students to focus on mastering the necessary concepts or skills as quickly as possible so that they can move beyond the intervention group. At GHRS in 2018-19, on average, students achieved 90.6 percent of their mathematics growth targets. The school has been recognized by CSDE as a School of Distinction for demonstrating strong growth for all students and students with high needs for three consecutive years. Educators’ fluid, responsive approach to supporting students accelerates academic growth for all students and leads to improved overall achievement.
Norton School (Cheshire): Exemplary High Performing
Norton School, a K-6 school with an enrollment of 415 students, has exceeded its school performance index targets for all students in English Language Arts and mathematics consistently for the last three administrations of Smarter Balanced. Simultaneously, academic growth measures in both subjects have improved every year. Overall performance as measured by the accountability index has increased from 81.7 in 2015-16 to 87.9 in 2018-19. Norton School educators use the gradual release of responsibility framework to design their instruction. The instructional routine that teachers use has three steps: (1) begin a lesson by modeling, (2) transition to students practicing together, and (3) students work individually. This approach requires students to be active participants in the learning process and moves them toward increasingly greater levels of independence. The approach works well in all subject areas and is balanced in mathematics courses with opportunities for students to engage in productive struggle. Students are consistently challenged but are provided with layers of academic and social-emotional support. Through a comprehensive school counseling program led by the school counselor, students are encouraged to self-advocate for support when it is needed. Collectively, these efforts create a culture supporting student agency and conditions empowering Norton students to be leaders of their own learning.
South Street School (Danbury): Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing
More than half of the K-5 students at South Street School are English learners. Overall enrollment is nearly 400 students, and 87.2 percent of the students are from economically disadvantaged families. South Street educators understand the challenges their students face, and they are dedicated to meeting their needs. Teachers use “big data” (i.e. test scores) to frame a problem, but student work provides educators with the necessary detail to correctly identify the problem or misunderstanding and in turn, generate instructional solutions. The school-wide daily 30-minute WIN (What I Need) block is a key structural piece in place at South Street School to meet the needs of all students whether they need intervention or acceleration. The WIN block is designed so that no student is removed from their class during core content instruction. The effort is successful because of the commitment and “all hands on deck” approach of the professionals in the building including teachers, coaches, English learner specialists, and special education staff. This highly coordinated time used to provide “expert support” to students is a school priority. As a result, students are showing strong academic growth, and the school has been identified as a School of Distinction by the CSDE for three of the last four years.
Northeast School (Vernon): Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing
Northeast School serves about 210 students in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 5. Half of the students are eligible for free or reduced priced meals. The overall performance for this school as measured by the Accountability Index has improved steadily over the last several years. Their success is attributed in part to the strong positive culture of the school and intentional efforts to ensure families are engaged members of the school community. School staff acknowledge that students spend more than 80 percent of their time outside of school or school activities. What happens at home impacts a student’s school experience. The principal, social worker, school psychologist, teachers, and paraeducators are flexible in the ways they communicate with families including phone calls, mobile texting apps, and occasional home visits. Regular check-ins with families are common at Northeast. Staff use the size of the school to their advantage by building close personal relationships with students and their families, providing staff with insights into how to best support student and family needs when challenges arise. If a staff member learns of a student experiencing difficulties, the situation can be quickly addressed during regularly scheduled weekly meetings or through spontaneous interactions among educators. Together, using their knowledge of the student and family, the educators are able to provide immediate support in the most effective way possible. The educators at Northeast recognize that when families feel connected to the school community, they will communicate the importance of education to their children driving positive student behavior and academic performance.
For more information about the program, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon Schools Program website.